Last Sunday, the Ventura County Strategy Boardgamers held an event at McGregors Craft Beer & Wine, in Moorpark, CA from 2pm until closing time. Although this is not the first time we have held an event at a commercial location. This is the first time we had held an event at an establishment that primarily serves alcohol. In addition, this was the first time we had held an event in Moorpark. I was interested if this was a draw or if it would put people off.
Top Billing on the events board
Fancy Cider at McGregors
McGregors was chosen as it has all the attributes of a good public gaming location. It is clean, and bright; there are plenty of large normal-height tables. It serves beer, wine, and bar friendly snack foods. Having plenty of parking is a big plus.
As it was a public event I am expecting, and hoping, that some of the bars patrons would join in with the games. In reality, we had a few interested patrons looking at the games, and asking a few questions.
The cheese and meat plate are not part of the game
Bunch of cylons
Oracle of Delphi
Shadows over Camelot
Beer is a concept
Cash N Guns
As an introductory game we played several rounds of Concept, both as a warm up game, and as a closer to wind down. I even got in a game of Battlestar Galactica.
We will have plenty of games at hand as we were not sure what types of gamers we would have attending. It is always best to be prepared with a mixture of games, both in game length, and in complexity. With 8 people gathered around a big table we broke out Ca$h n Guns as a ice breaker. Soon people settled into a mixture of longer, and more involved games.
In total we had 17 people actually play the games, two were newcomers to the group. The event was a success, and everyone had good things to say about the location. I had expected more newcomers, but I am happy with the way the event went overall.
I was introduced to a young lad called Calvin, from the nearby Game Development Meetup group. They hold monthly events to create, collaborate and develop games.
Let me know if you have an ideas, or suggestions, for the next McGregors event. I am thinking it could be a monthly event. Is Sunday the best day for such an event ?
30th June 2017
Ventura County Strategy Boardgamersevent page on Meetup.
Although this is not the first time we have held an event at a commercial location. This is the first time we had held an event at an establishment that primarily serves alcohol. Therefore there is a minimum age of 21.
McGregors was chosen as it has all the attributes of a good public gaming location. It is clean, and bright, has lots of free parking, there are plenty of large tables, and it serves beer, and beer friendly snack food. And wine too.
As this is a public event I am expecting, and hoping, that some of the bars patrons will join in. We will have plenty of games that are suitable for non-gamers to play. Games that are quicker, and lighter, to get them hooked. Mwhhahhaa.
20th June 2017
Ventura County Strategy Boardgamersevent page on Meetup.
A Good Dog Is Hard To Photograph…and so is a board game.
For the past month or so we have had a regular canine visitor on Tuesday nights. Our host, Greg, has been bringing along his adorable labradoodle called Fletcher. Now dogs, and board games are not always a good combination. This is especially so for a rather large, and rambunctious dog like Fletcher. This dog is a people pooch. He has a great personality, and evidently enjoys the attention of a large crowd of friendly humans. We dote on him. Luckily for us, and the games, Fletcher is a very well behaved dog. He does not jump up on people when he gets excited. His tail is very powerful, yet he keeps it below the table height. Good doggie!
With Fletcher firmly being part of our Tuesday night gang, it is only reasonable that I have been including photographs of him in my gaming pictures. Each gaming session I endeavor to take photographs of the games, and the gamers. If you look back at the Photo Gallery of the Ventura County Strategy Boardgamers Meetup group you will see thousand of photos of our gaming sessions. If I creative I tag people, and add the name of the game as a title.overall, this photos are a little meh. They lack pizazz and ooomph.
More recently, I have been creating montages with the photos. You can see a whole bunch of these montages on a separate page linked here.
VCSB 23rd May 2017
VCSB 23rd May 2017
VCSB 23rd May 2017
VCSB 23rd May 2017
Click on an individual picture for a larger version.
These montages add context to a plain photograph. The game title is included, which is always a wise thing to do. This helps to fend off the “what game is that?” questions. It is also a good idea to include the date, location, and any other useful information. If possible include a little anecdotal comment to liven up the scene. Like in this example here.
A photo montage with some anecdotal comments
The unexpected side effect of these montages is that I am thinking more about what, and how, I photograph. I am still taking lots of photos, but I am posting less of them. The photographs that I am using are better quality than the photos that I was posting before I started creating the photo montages.
This brings me to the point that I want to make about photos of games, and of gamers. Just like taking photos of a dog, it is hard to take good photographs of gamers.
Gamers move around a lot while they are playing games. It is not fair to continuously interrupt the games to take posed pictures. It is not fair to distract people when they are deep in thought, or taking their turn. This method often results in unusable photos.
As an example, here is a photo from last night. It shows some of the lads playing Viticulture. Jonathon is smirking, as per normal, while Ryan, and Matthew are concentrating on the game. Ben, on the other hand, is a blur.
The only solution is to take lots of photos, and hope that you have some good ones. I have lot’s of pictures where all but one person are smiling, or posing nicely for the camera. The one person barely looks like a human being. At a pinch you can still use these flawed pictures, but it is wise to crop or edit the picture so the photos are presentable. If you are concerned about what content is acceptable, play it safe.
It is always wise to avoid posting unflattering pictures.
As I am thinking more and more about what photos I am taking I had a revelation. I had come to the realization that I was often taking two types of photo.
It is frustrating when people show up late, and people are already firmly set into long games. It’s frustrating for me as a group organizer, and I know it’s annoying for those who rushed to get there, and then find it is hurry up and wait. Wait until a game finishes, or hope someone else turns up late too. Even worse than that is when people stop showing up if they think that arriving late will not allow them to get into a game.
The staggered/delayed start was implemented for the first time on Tuesday night. To understand the problem, see a previous blog post. Basically, some people were having a problem getting to the meetup for an earlier start time of 6:00pm. With 28 in attendance this Tuesday, compared to 21 last week, I regard that as a promising increase in numbers. At least 4 people said they could benefit by having the option to start a little later. The key to making it work is communication, it’s people letting the rest of us know that they will be arriving later than the 6:00pm normal start time.
16th May 2017
16th May 2017
16th May 2017
16th May 2017
Games played of Tuesday included: Loco, World Monuments, Ticket To Ride, Circus Flohcati, Eclipse, Terra Mystica, Terraforming Mars, Archer Love Letter, Speicherstadt, Legendary Encounters (Alien) x2, Crimson Creek, Hawaii, Boss Monster, Steam, Castles of Burgundy, Clank!, and Battlestar Galactica x2.
The expected side effect of delaying our start of Battlestar Galactica was that we had a full quorum. We had an option to play 5 or 6 player. We went with the 5 experienced players. BSG is a tough, and time consuming, game to teach. So we were happy to crack on, and simply start playing with the experienced players. BSG is one of the go-to games on a Tuesday night, a familiar friend that allows people to simply play the game without fuss, or delay.
Both myself and Dodgy John, were cylons in both games. We won both games too. In the first game it was obvious that Morale was the Resource to target. That allows you to focus on lowering that Resource. In the second game, however, there were multiple paths to victory. There were multiple Centurions on the boarding track, Galactica was suffering from damage, the Resources were getting hit, and there were plenty of cylon Raiders milling around Galactica itself. This is one of the reasons why BSG is such an engaging game. Whether you are a human, or a cylon, each player must decide what is the priority, both in the short term, and the log term. Ignore the wrong thing and it could be disaster for your side. Sometimes, discussing the threats, and openly co-operating is a good idea. In other times you do not want to reveal your options to the other side. This is especially so when you do not know the allegiance of the other players. Paranoia over who you can trust is a key part of the game.
With multiple threats to the humans, each of them had a possibility to bring victory to the cylons. What does a cylon do ? You have to weigh up the choices to see what strategy, or strategies, are most likely to work. This is where you have to use your experience of the game, coupled with the current game state, and analyze the characters around the table to make your choice. Then you do all you can to make it work for your side.
With lot’s of cylon Raiders around Galactica, 18 to be precise, we went for causing damage on Galactica: I rolled the d8 (the game uses only eight sided dice) the required 18 times. Each 8 rolled would cause Damage on Galactica. I rolled zero (0) 8’s on 18 dice. I laughed, the other players laughed. John, my fellow cylon, exclaimed about how useless I was. He then rolled the same number of dice, and got four 8’s. Human Mike, playing the Chief character negated two of the four 8’s by playing Calculations cards from his hand. Galactica was still alive, but only just.
The cylons still won the game, we advanced the Centurions and vented the atmosphere of Galactica. The humans needed air, they had none.
The cylons won!
Dice still hate me!
I am ok with that.
A new board game Meetup group has started in nearby Agoura Hills. It is called Conejo Valley Boardgames. They are meeting for the first time this coming Saturday at a cafe in Agoura Hills. The organizer, Patrick, has also signed up for next Tuesday night.
Last Tuesday night we had the lowest attendance in years with a total of 21. This is the same Tuesday night that, six months ago, we were having well over 30. We often had people on the waiting list during the day, and just dipping under the maximum limit of 35 by the time the meetup started.
As I am a little detail orientated, please don’t laugh, I keep an eye on the attendance of each meetup. I do this for a variety of reasons. With space at a premium it is wise to make sure that we get maximum number of butts on seats. It also helps to identify the small minority who RSVP, and then don’t show up. Every now and then we get a flakey person, and for repeat offenders I contact them reminding them to keep their RSVP up to date. It is a shame when a regular cannot attend due to lack of space, and we find there was actually enough space for them because someone else did not attend. Simply not being bothered to update their RSVP is a poor excuse.
The attendance figures on Tuesday have been consistently in the low 30’s for a long time. We have been meeting weekly at this location for over 5 years. For all intents and purposes the Tuesday group just kept on trucking.
And then it changed.
The attendance numbers dropped, and then did not pick up again.
What the $%^&$ had happened?
Some thoughts came to mind about the possible cause for a dip in attendance.
Season variation. The attendance numbers tend to drop around the holiday season.
Too much choice: The VCSB meetup group was now having 3-4 meetups a week. Were people suffering from gaming fatigue ?
Cascade effect. When certain regulars are not attending it is harder to get the optimum numbers of players for certain games. This can cascade such that other regulars do not attend as often.
We changed the start time. The start time on Tuesday had been 6:30pm for many years. In October of 2016 we changed the start time to 6:00pm.
Now there was a reason why I did not immediately suspect the start time change was the culprit for the attendance drop. As I listed above, there was often a seasonal drop due to the Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year holiday season. When January came around I honestly expected the numbers to pick up again.
Secondly, most of the people arrived early. The Tuesday group had it’s own pattern that people arrived early for the 6:30pm start. With people arriving early, there were often games setup and going by the official 6:30pm start time. This caused people to arrive even earlier to ensure they got into games. Frankly, it sucks to arrive a little late and find that most people are already settled into long games.
The Eureka Moment
It was only after I spoke to a ex-regular did I realize that the 30 minutes difference had made all the difference to them. Those extra minutes allow enough time for a tough commute, or allow people to grab some food before the meetup.
What annoyed me, a little, was that no one had told me before. It had taken months before I found out the probable cause of the dip in attendance. It is not like this was something new. We often had people arrive a little late, they would arrange their games in advance and people would wait for them to arrive.
There had to be a way forward. There had to be a way to accommodate those who could not reliably, or safely, get to the meetup for the 6:00pm start time. After a little thought, and a few emails, I believe we have a solution. It will require some organization, and good communication, but it should work. From tomorrow, May the 16th, we are having a delayed start time for specific games. The games are named in advance, and those interested in playing must state they are committing to those games with a 6:30pm start.
My role, as group organizer, will be to make sure that people wait for these later arrivals, and to keep up to date with communications to ensure that we don’t hang around waiting for an individual to arrive who is not coming.
Sound simple, yeah ? We shall see how it goes.
Despite the lower attendance numbers last Tuesday, there was still a good variety of games played.
Although is article may seem to be focused on my demographic, i.e. middle aged men. In fact it is aimed at showing the positive social benefits of board gaming as a modern leisure pursuit.
Middle Aged Male Loneliness
A recent article by the Boston Globe highlights a number of problems that afflict middle aged men. There are the obvious health threats like cancer, heart disease, or obesity. The one issue the article highlights is that of loneliness, or isolation. The gist of the article is that most middle aged men have to focus on their work and home commitments at the expense of their own social life. As a result, old relationships drift apart, regular social events stop being regular and people become more isolated. And a side affect of being isolated is that it is bad for your health.
“That’s why Schwartz and others say the best way for men to forge and maintain friendships is through built-in regularity — something that is always on the schedule.”
Let us first look at the regular social activities that would appeal to middle aged males.
Common Middle Aged Male Pursuits
It is hard for a busy adult to justify taking time away from their responsibilities. For arguments sake let us look at some examples of leisure activities for might appeal to a middle aged man.
Go to a bar: The negatives here are obvious, booze. Booze is costly, too much alcohol is bad for you. Let alone the negative social aspects of using drink as the center of a social activity. As a cause of spousal friction, this one is one of the worst options for a regular social activity.
Fantasy Football/Going Fishing: Regardless of the excuse, the activity is to consume booze with the boys. This is similar to going to a bar, booze is the focus.
Eating out: Food is the excuse, getting out is the goal. Food costs money, and it is probably not very healthy too.
Reading: Do not get me wrong, I love reading. I have many books that I want to read. Reading is a nice distraction, but it is not being social.
Online Games: These are a fun distraction. Along with booze this will probably a big cause of spousal friction. Online gaming may give a semblance of social interaction, it is not the same as interacting with a real person face to face without a computer.
Take up a hobby at home: Just like reading, this is good ‘me‘ time. This has a number of downsides; space, cost, and the lack of social interaction element that is apparent with solo activities. Do not under estimate the benefit of having time spent away from the home.
Work, church, family: For many people these are the extent of their social circles. We meet up with mostly the same people, and do the same things. There may be a lack of variety in the people, and the activities these group undertake.
While there may well be pressure to spend time with the family, and to concentrate on our responsibilities. I hope you would agree that middle aged men need regular social activities for their emotional, and physical, well-being.
Not Just For Middle Aged Men
Are they the only demographic that can feel isolated due to the hectic modern way of life? I think not. Targeting just middle aged men with 2.3 kids is losing sight of how out society has changed. An ever growing social issue is the narrowing of the social lives for many adults. With our lives being more hectic it is harder to maintain wide social circles.
Social isolation is not just a problem for middle aged men.
Board Games As A Solution
Board games have now become another reason to get together with people. The board games are the focus. For me they have become my go-to excuse to have quality time interacting with people who I enjoy spending time with.
Enjoying a drink, or some food, is a perfectly fine accompaniment to many social activities. This includes board games. They do help to lubricate and promote social interaction, just remember two things. Keep the food and drink to a reasonable amount. Secondly, keep the food and drink away from the games.
Board Games Is An Inclusive Hobby
Board games are not just for children, they never were just for children. Nowadays there are so many board games there are enough choice there is something to appeal to everyone. There are games for all ages, and experience levels. What comes as a surprise to many is the variety of choice in modern board games. The board game related website BoardGameGeek.com has a database of over 89,000 board and card games.
It is hard for a busy adult to justify taking time away from their responsibilities. Instead of feeling guilt at taking time apart is is possible to make gaming time into shared time.
Having a board game night with some food and drink is also a way to bring along the spouse. The gamers can get together and play some games while the non-gamers can mingle. With the inclusion of some fun, lighter or party games it is possible to appeal to the gamers and non-gamers alike. A great way to involve all types of people is to play a fun party type game like Telestrations.
Modern board games can appeal to everyone.
What never ceases to amaze me are the variety of different people who enjoy modern board games. The ages, races, religions, and professions of gamers are extremely varied. The glue for these people spending time together is their shared enjoyment of board games. This allows people to interact with others that they would normally not socialize with.
I believe it is very beneficial to socialize with people outside of the standard family, work, and church social circles. Board gaming is a great way to socialize.
The Other Benefits of Modern Board Gaming
The obvious benefit of playing modern board games is to have a fun time interacting with other human beings. What will surprise some people are the other, unforeseen, benefits that people can derive from playing modern board games. Here are some of these hidden benefits:
Interact with a wide variety of people.
Challenge yourself to do well at the games.
Polish your interpersonal skills.
Form new social relationships.
You will make new friends.
Time spent away from the digital devices.
Share fun times with other people.
Family game night with games that are actually fun to play.
Teach your kids life skills. For example: how to win , or lose with grace and dignity.
Learn analysis, or negotiation skills.
Board games have a lot to offer people. The image of board games is that of simple children’s games that have little place for grown adults. This is not the case. They have benefits that are very relevant to today’s society. Join a game group, or form you own. Find out for yourself.
20th March 2017
Note: Do not misunderstand me on a few aspects that I mention above. As a social introvert I need my alone time, my ‘me’ time. People need time to recharge themselves; introverts need to do that alone, and extroverts need time around other people. See an article at the bottom for a great graphic on the subject. The key point is knowing what works for you, and then making sure that you get the type of ‘me’ time that works best for you.
Secondly, as any one you knows me will attest, I also like to enjoy the odd drink. When I look back at my younger days I realize that drink was the excuse to be sociable with people. Having a drink as the motivation then forces people to drink more. And we all know that is not good for many reasons.
Know an introvert ? This is a interesting article on how introverts, and extroverts, recharge. The graphic below is a great visual representation of the differences.
While looking for some other photos, I found a bunch from the special one-day events that I help to organize back in 2012. A a tease here is a montage for our first FATDOG event. The full article can be found here.
As part of my ongoing goal of increasing the number of gamers, and game groups, who log their game plays. I had added a thread to BGG with a few polls. From that feedback it looks like lots of people are logging their games played. There are many detractors, yet so far I have only convinced 1 (one) gamer to start logging. Success!
Last night I played some games for the first time in over 5 years.
After playing the new game Clank!. I agreed to play Eminent Domain, a space theme civilization deck building game. After that time was running short so we needed something quick and easy. Jon suggested the bluffing party game called Skull. I soon realized that although I own all of these games. It had been years since I I had not played the latter two games.
Eminent Domain, with two expansions, is an evolved game. With so long having elapsed since I last played I knew I needed help with both the rules and the strategy. Ted and Jon were past-masters at the game so they helped answer questions once we got going. It did not matter to me that I was not going to win. Just trying to get some synergy in my strategy was enough for me. While mostly ignoring what Ted and Jon were doing; Alan, John and myself competed in our own 2nd tier contest. Even before the game had ended I was itching to drag out my copy of the game, read the rules and play it again. Perhaps I should not wait 5 years before I play it again. Luckily, that will not be a problem as Eminent Domain is one of the regular games in my local gaming group.
The game called Skull was fast light and fun. This was a good game to round out the evening. Despite the long time since I had last played I still sort-of remembered the rules, and (more importantly) I had a grasp of the fundamentals of the bluffing strategy required. The 5 people playing were all long time gaming opponents which meant the table talk was rather lively. Some of the other gamers gathered around to watch the game and listen to our banter.
There is little in common between these two games. To master Eminent Domain it would need many plays to develop effective strategies. Regular plays are required to learn all the possibilities within the many cards within the game. On the other hand, Skull is quick to teach and relies more on reading people than understanding detailed game mechanics.
This made me reflect on my own game replay habits, and that of my local gaming groups.
My local gaming group, the Ventura County Strategy Boardgamers Meetup have been holding a game night on Tuesday nights since early 2010. From a few people meeting in a Borders Books the group has flourished into a large and active group that has held over 1100 meetups. Currently 2-3 meetups per week are being held across different locations. Many gamers attend more than one of these weekly meetups, yet each meetup location seems to have developed their own game preferences.
For a many years the most regular game on Tuesday nights has been Battlestar Galactica (BSG) by Fantasy Flight Games It is no surprise to have 2-3 games of BSG being played during an evening session. Almost by accident, BSG had evolved into one of the go-to games for the Tuesday night group. This go me thinking about some of the other go-to games in my gaming circles
The current go-to games across a number of game groups that I frequent include:
Vegas (dice game)
Star Wars Rebellion
Love Letter (various versions)
Sword of Rome
That is quite a variety of games.
Having a number of go-to games has proven to be useful in all of the groups. Having variety in your go-to games allow the players some choice in what to play. The available time, and number of players are major factors in choosing which games to play.
Advantages of go-to games
Here are some advantages of having go-to games in your gaming circles. These are especially advantages for the more evolved, longer games.
There is no need to teach the game. Teaching a game takes time and effort.
Players have evolved past just simply playing the game – they know different strategies and can play the game competently.
The game is setup and running quickly.
The time it takes to play the game is shorter.
Not everyone always wants to put the time and effort into learning a new game. This is especially advantages on a weekday evening.
Repetition is good for newcomers
It is hard to remember what it is like to be a new gamer. Gazing with wonder at stacks of snazzy game boxes filled with counters, cards, and meeples. Old hands introduce you to a game about something where you need to earn some fancy mechanic called worker placement, and there are cards and cubes everywhere. Just when you get the hang of it, the game is over. And may never see that game again.
Compared to experienced gamers, newcomers to gaming need more repeat plays for the game to sink in. Newcomers have to learn a myriad of new game terminology and game concepts. Simply playing the game well takes practice. Experienced gamers are quicker to look past the game mechanics and see strategies. Put yourself
Please take that into account when suggesting games to newcomers. It is more satisfying for all the gamers in a group that the newcomers find their feet quickly. I believe this helped by regular, repeat play of go-to games.
My resolution is this: I will add more go-to games to my own game choices. This may mean I play BSG a little less often. I will ensure that newcomers are exposed to more go-to games.